It appears a lot of Manitobans got the same thing for Christmas this year: the flu.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) tweeted Monday morning that emergency rooms at Winnipeg hospitals are "very busy" with people showing flu and influenza-type illnesses.
Hospitals & ER depts. across WRHA very busy. Significant increase in ER visits & hospital admissions arising from influenza-like-iillnesses.— WRHA_media (@WRHA_media) December 29, 2014
The WRHA said about 900 people were seen on Saturday at hospital emergency rooms in Winnipeg. Typically, the average daily number of visitors is 750.
Wait times at the hospitals varied throughout the weekend, reaching up to eight hours for non-urgent cases at one point.
Lori Lamont, the WRHA's chief nursing officer, said the number of people reporting to hospital emergency rooms with the flu who could not be sent home is almost double the normal rate for this time of year.
"We certainly are seeing a number of people that are quite ill with the flu ... or flu-like illness, and needing admission to hospital," said Lamont. "We're seeing that turn into things like pneumonia; other kinds of illnesses that need in-patient treatment."
The WRHA has extended the operating hours at its QuickCare Clinics and is advising people with non-urgent flu-like symptoms to visit one of those locations or the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre. The wait times likely won't be as long and that will also ease the pressure in the ERs.
"We're really encouraging people with less serious illnesses or injuries to think about other options than the emergency department if at all possible," said Lamont, adding family doctors are also a good option.
Rob Ignall visited the Health Sciences Centre Monday. He just got over the worst case of the flu he’s had in 25 years.
“And my wife had it, and we were immobilized for two days,” said Rob Ignall.
Ignall hasn’t received the flu shot.
“I've hummed and hawed over this so many times,” said Ignall. “There's so many strains. You get it for one but if there's a hundred flu strains then what's the point?"
But Mike Watts with Brothers Pharmacist insists that the best way to protect yourself, even in the middle of an outbreak, is with a flu vaccine.
Watts said he hasn't given a flu shot in almost a month. Getting vaccinated is still one of the best preventative options available to Manitobans, said Watts, adding that it is better to get the shot than trying to treat the flu once you’re already infected.
“Unless it's a very serious case all you can do is treat symptoms with over the counter medications,” said Watts.
Lamont said that while it is hard to determine how effective this year’s vaccine has been, the WRHA is still encouraging people who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get the flu shot.
"Whether we're seeing the illness in those that were vaccinated, or whether it was people who were unvaccinated ... we won't know that probably for several weeks."
The WHRA has sent samples away and is expecting test results back this week that would confirm what strain of the flu has infected Manitobans, and whether the current vaccine protects against the current strain.
Brandon's ER also busy
West of Winnipeg, the Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority is seeing the same problems.
“We certainly are seeing an increase in influenza-like symptoms at a number of places,” said Penny Gilson, the PMRHA’s CEO. “We do have confirmed cases … in several personal care homes including Boissevain, Winnipegosis and Reston.”
Gilson said there is also an increase in people reporting flu-like symptoms in Glenboro, St. Rose, Melita and Brandon.
“There was lots of activity in emergency rooms this weekend in Brandon. It was busier than normal for sure,” said Gilson.
She said anyone with flu-like symptoms should not be visiting personal care homes as many of the residents have respiratory problems.
Is it the flu or just a cold?
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the following: "In fact, the WRHA set a new record for the highest number of ER visits in one day." The WRHA could not confirm whether the high number of visits to Winnipeg hospital emergency rooms over the weekend "set a new record." We apologize for this error.Dec 29, 2014 3:29 PM CT